It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and employers are being urged to do more to tackle mental health issues at work. Not only is work a major cause of stress, but studies show poor mental health costs employers a staggering £33-£42bn a year.
Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services for AXA PPP healthcare, says many people regret not seeking help with their mental health sooner.
“Most people don’t want to admit to having a problem, as they are concerned about how this would be received by colleagues and fearful it could affect their career prospects,” he explains.
To help combat the issue, Dr Winwood urges employers to offer staff free depression screenings, which would take the form of a survey. Once HR can identify any staff who may be struggling, they can connect them with the right support.
“If this were widely available, we might see more people seeking and receiving support for their mental health sooner – before reaching crisis point,” says Dr Winwood.
“Employers who adopt this approach would also show employees that their psychological wellbeing really matters – something that should, in turn, help to break down the stigma of mental ill health at work”.
If you’re experiencing stress in the workplace, here are the steps Dr Winwood suggests you take to address it…
Do a basic wellness check – should you be doing more exercise, improving your diet, or getting more sleep? Fairly simple changes in these three areas can boost your outlook and ability to cope with stressful situations at work.
Challenge your thinking – if you find yourself taking a negative perspective on work issues, could there be a more balanced or alternative way of looking at things? Write down what’s troubling you and challenge it. Take some time to focus on the positives too – what are your strengths and what have you achieved?
Make lists and plan your workload – by ticking off jobs as you do them, you’ll start to recognise your accomplishments and feel more in control.
Find time to relax – listen to your favourite music or take a walk for air. Whether it’s at home or on your lunch break, make time for you. Switching off will also improve your sleep health, allowing you to tackle tasks with a fresh head.
Be fair on yourself – think about what you have the power to change in your current circumstances and prioritise these things, rather than worrying about areas you can’t control. Keep things in perspective. Ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ It’s probably not as bad as you imagine.
Don’t bury your head in the sand – whether it’s faking a sick day or putting something off, ignoring the source of your stress won’t make it disappear. It may only add to your to-do list.
Identify the real problem – are you afraid of failing? Sometimes we’re our own worst critics. Think about what you’d say to a friend or a colleague in the same situation. Would you be as hard on them as you are on yourself?
Protect your work-life balance – don’t abandon social plans for the sake of working late. Overtime can lead to diminishing returns on productivity. Making time to catch up with friends and family will boost your mood and take your mind off work pressures.
Avoid unhealthy habits – excessive food or drink consumption may offer temporary relief, but it won’t help in the long run. Explore good habits that can boost your mood and energy levels. Exercise releases a chemical in the brain called dopamine which gives you a healthy high.
Don’t bottle it up – it’s helpful to share your concerns, so speak to your manager or a supportive colleague. A problem shared is a problem halved.
To find more content on mental health at work, click here.
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